Celtics aim to tighten up defensively vs. reeling Knicks

The Boston Celtics weren't pleased with their intensity or defensive effort against the Brooklyn Nets on Friday afternoon, but if this season is any indication, the team might only need to go across town to find the cure for what ails it.

The Celtics will look to return to form on Sunday when they visit the reeling New York Knicks in a battle of Atlantic Division rivals at Madison Square Garden.

Both teams were off Saturday following disappointing defeats.

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The Celtics lost to the host Nets, 112-107, in the back end of a home-and-home series.

The Knicks ran their losing streak to a season-high five games by squandering a 16-point second-quarter lead and falling to the visiting Philadelphia 76ers, 101-95.

The loss for the Celtics (13-5) concluded an inconsistent second half of the month in which they went 3-4 following a 10-game winning streak. Prior to Friday, Boston had won two straight over the Nets and Sacramento Kings, despite allowing Buddy Hield to score 41 points for the Kings on Monday and giving up a 40-point second quarter to the Nets on Wednesday.

The Celtics finally paid a price for their defensive inconsistency Friday, when the Nets were 17-of-41 from 3-point land while scoring the most points against Boston since Nov. 13.

"These kind of games are all about the teams who want it the most," Celtics point guard Kemba Walker told reporters afterward. "They wanted it more than us, especially after us getting them at home, where they played well -- we just got over the hump and won that one. But tonight you could tell they wanted it and they come out and got that win."

Such efforts have been few and far between this season for the Knicks, who are tied with the Atlanta Hawks for the worst record in the Eastern Conference (4-15) and already have endured three losing streaks of at least three games.

The Knicks looked like they might be snapping their latest skid in the first half Friday against a depleted 76ers squad that was without starters Al Horford (maintenance) and Josh Richardson (right hamstring). But Philadelphia mounted its second double-digit comeback of the season against New York, which squandered a 17-point lead in a 109-104 loss on Nov. 20.

"We've got to do it for all 48 (minutes)," Knicks rookie shooting guard RJ Barrett told reporters after New York scored fewer than 100 points for the second straight game and the sixth time this season. "They're a great team, a playoff team, they are not going to just stop. Third quarter, we came out flat and they jumped on us."

The game Sunday marks the first game of a back-to-back challenging set for the Knicks, who visit the Eastern Conference-leading Milwaukee Bucks Monday night.

--Field Level Media

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